Question about Hobsbawm

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Thu Nov 2 19:46:21 MST 2000


I seem to recall some discussion here a while back on how E.J. Hobsbawm had
given short shrift to the Irish struggle. I believe I stumbled across some
of that while reading his article "The Crisis of the Seventeenth Century"
in Trevor Aston's "Crisis in Europe 1560-1660". (Aston is also the editor
of "The Brenner Debate".)

The article is an explanation of why England managed to avoid the worst
consequences of the financial crisis of the 17th century, which hit Spain
particularly hard. Not surprisingly, Hobsbawm attributes this to the
relatively productive agricultural system in England that was spawned by
the abolition of "decadent" feudal relations that typified the rest of
Europe.

(Another question worth pursuing is the indirect legacy of British
Stalinism on Brenner, besides all the other things we've discussed here.
Both Maurice Dobb and E.J. Hobsbawm learned their Marxism within the
heavily 'stagist' intellectual milieu of the Stalinist movement. In
describing the impact of the "Brenner thesis" on the Spanish academy of the
1980s, Jaime Torras remarks that:

"Brenner's argument was certain to be well received in Spain, since it can
lend historiographical support to the tenets of Kautskyism which [was]
becoming the dominant ideological inspiration in our academic circles and
the main supplier of themes and concepts to our new breed of politicians.
This ideological model conceives of history as the materializing of a
logical sequence of modes of production, each one carrying, deeply embedded
in the strucutre of its own defining contradiction (which is, naturally,
'internal' of necessity), a one-way tendency toward its own decomposition
and superannuation."

Yeah, we keep coming back to that internal stuff, don't we. When I was
reading Hobsbawm's article, I kept scratching my head. Seventeenth century?
Hunger? Depression? Land? That rings a bell, doesn't it. Of course,
IRELAND. But when you read Hobsbawm's erudite but stinky article, there IS
NO DISCUSSION OF THE RELATIONSHIP OF ENGLAND TO IRELAND.

So I had to go to my library and take a look at Liz Curtis's "The Cause of
Ireland" just to remind me what wuz up. She writes, "By 1685 the settlers
[Cromwell's soldiers and Scottish farmers] had expropriated nearly 80
percent of the land. In the process, the Gaelic social system was
destroyed..."

I ask you, how can you write about England's success in this period without
writing about Ireland's failure? Aw, don't tell me. I think I know. It is
called racism.







Louis Proyect
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